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Central Texas Games to Watch: Week 5

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DJ Ramirez, Chad Conine and Brice Cherry get together every week to chat about high school football.

Cameron Yoe (2-2) at No. 2 Lorena (3-1)

Breakdown: District play kicks off in 11-3A Div. I, as the Yoemen travel to Lorena in a lights-out matchup, even with Cameron coming off back-to-back losses. Meanwhile, the Leopards have a little more spring in their step after a close win over La Vega.

“I thought our kids gave tremendous effort and did a great job on defense and offensively,” said Lorena head coach Ray Biles. “We’re coming along. We did a lot more things right. We played a very good school, a very tough football team. La Vega’s always been physical. They’re going to be well-coached and we had to play well to have a chance.”

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Jackson Generals has been heading up the Leopards’ offense under center with 689 passing yards so far this season, adding 177 yards on the ground on 24 carries. Jadon Porter has been his main target at wide receiver with 20 catches and 394 yards while Kasen Taylor leads the running game with 64 carries and 485 yards.

Linebacker Lucas Ragsdale has taken charge on defense, totaling 50 tackles (29 solo), with four TFLs and four QB hurries.

Despite the tough losses to Class 4A Connally and state-ranked Bellville, Cameron is still a “football factory,” Biles said. The Yoemen bring physicality and speed on both sides. Quarterback Braylon Drake is more reliant on his arm than on his legs, posting 62 completions for 719 yards. Kardarius Bradley is the Yoemen’s weapon on the ground, tallying 62 carries for 439 yards. Trayjen Wilcox has been Drake’s got-to, coming down with 25 catches for 313 yards.

Biles said Lorena will have to eliminate big plays out of Cameron’s offense.

“We can’t give up the big play for the home run. That’s critical for us,” Biles said. “And then on the other side of the ball, we’ve got to do a good job of sustaining drives and finishing drives out to get it in the end zone.”

Hutto (3-1) at Midway (0-4)

Radio: 106.7 FM,

Breakdown: Time to hit the reset button, as District 12-6A play arrives. Midway coach Shane Anderson said the Panthers’ word of the week is “focus,” and it’s all about the Panthers doing what they have to do to get to 1-0 in district, and not worrying about the outcomes that preceded this juncture.

“That means going 1-0 every day, going 1-0 every day in practice, every day at school, doing whatever you can as an individual to help the team get to 1-0,” Anderson said.

The Hippos are coming off a thrilling 24-23 win over Converse Judson, won on Timothy Hollenbeck’s 52-yard field goal with three seconds to go. Clearly, Midway will want to keep Hutto out of field-goal range. Anderson said that it’s also going to be imperative that his defense limit Hutto’s big plays, which will mean not letting junior receiver Alex Green (268 yards, 4 TDs) get loose downfield.

Midway, fortunately, found a spark offensively by moving its own big-play threat Junior Thornton from receiver to quarterback. Thornton rushed for 277 yards and three TDs in his debut at QB, and showed the ability to slash for huge chunks of yardage. Hutto undoubtedly scouted Midway and will be ready for Thornton’s rushing attempts, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers have some different wrinkles in place to offset the potential of Hutto crowding the box.

The Panthers’ four nondistrict foes feature a combined record of 14-2, so facing good teams is nothing new to Midway.

“I think this district is going to be very, very evenly matched,” Anderson said. “Our nondistrict schedule prepared us for everything we’re going to see, so let’s just keep our focus and our perspective on being 1-0 against Hutto this week.”

Dallas Roosevelt (0-4) at La Vega (1-3)

Radio: 94.5 FM,

Breakdown: La Vega is mired in a three-game losing slide, which hasn’t happened in Pirate Country since 2014. That year La Vega went 5-6 and lost in the bi-district playoffs. If the Pirates are going to dodge their first losing record since that season, beating winless Roosevelt on homecoming would be a good place to start.

To be fair to La Vega, plenty of teams are going to fall at the hands of the likes of Connally, Midlothian Heritage and Lorena this season. And the Pirates are steadfast in their commitment to the principles they hold true— working hard to limit mistakes, stuffing teams with a hard-hitting defense, and running the ball with authority.

RB Bryson Roland has the capability of gouging a Mustang defense that has allowed 41 points per game. The Pirates also want to make sure they display sound ball security against Roosevelt, as Lorena nabbed two interceptions of quarterback Robert Prescott in last week’s game, won by the Leopards, 14-6, in a slugfest.

This marks the penultimate nondistrict game for the Pirates. They’ll travel to Yoakum next week before opening up District 5-4A action on Oct. 7 against Waxahachie Life.

West (2-1, 1-0) at Dallas Madison (2-2, 2-0)

Breakdown: The Trojans opened District 7-3A Div. I with a sturdy 42-20 win over rival Whitney. West coach David Woodard liked what he saw from his guys in that game, and he thought the team’s conditioning made a difference in the second half.

They’ll need to be ready for a four-quarter battle again, as Woodard noted that Madison boasts a strong, physical defense that swarms to the ball. The Madison Trojans have yielded only 12 points in opening up district on a 2-0 spurt, with wins over Dallas Gateway and Dallas Inspired Vision.

Speaking of inspirational visionaries, West running back T.J. McCutcheon and quarterback Zane Meinen spur one of the more productive running games in Central Texas. They also benefit from some veteran leaders up front like OL Cash Fuller, a preseason Super Centex pick.

Certainly, as West pursues another district title, it’s important to have guys like that who have been through the wars and have the scars — and the trophies — to prove it.

“Oh, it’s huge,” Woodard said. “Those guys help set the tone for us, for what we’re supposed to do Monday through Thursday so that we can have a successful Friday.”

Groesbeck (3-1) at Mexia (0-4)

Streaming: SHN Sports on YouTube

Breakdown: Shall we gather at the river? Sorry, no dice. It’s already sold out, my friends.

Yes, the “Battle of the River” between Groesbeck and Mexia has everyone in Limestone County rocking. Mexia’s allotment of tickets sold out in mere hours after going on sale Wednesday, and the Groesbeck side had been scooped up by Thursday.

It sets up as a fun opener for District 8-3A Div. I, for sure.

“No doubt, it’s homecoming, it’s the Battle of the River, it’s the first game of district,” said Mexia coach Aaron Nowell. “There’s a lot of noise that surrounds the rivalry, but we’ve talked to the guys about, hey, when it’s time to have fun, have fun.”

The Blackcats can stack their nondistrict gauntlet against anybody, as they tested themselves against three 4A opponents in Connally, China Spring and Gatesville, as well as 3A’s top-ranked Franklin. It resulted in an 0-4 record, but Nowell said he thinks Mexia will be better in the long run.

“We could’ve scheduled the School for the Blind and gotten an easy win, but that doesn’t really help anything,” Nowell said.

Groesbeck lost its star quarterback Allen Lewis to injury two weeks ago, and then suffered its first loss of the season last week in his absence to Crockett, 39-34. But Mexia’s Nowell was impressed how Jerry Bomar and the Goat coaches prepared sophomore Trent Platt and played to his strengths in Platt’s first start.

At any rate, this sets up as an absolute humdinger.

“This is one that you want kids to be able to experience,” Nowell said. “Sure, there’s a lot of back and forth, but it’s all about communities coming out to support these kids.”

• Three “M” schools in Central Texas — Mexia, Marlin and Midway — are a collective 0-11 on the year. But aren’t they all pretty good, despite their records? They all get to hit the reset button this week with district play starting after some brutal nondistrict scheduling. We lay out their paths to the playoffs. DJ Ramirez, Chad Conine and Brice Cherry get together every week to chat about high school football.

Lake Belton (3-1) at Waco High (1-3)


Breakdown: Waco High snapped a 17-game losing streak by defeating Dallas White, 45-27, on Sept. 2. But the follow up hasn’t gone too well. Granbury and Midlothian thumped the Lions in back-to-back games by a combined score of 111-3.

Lake Belton, in its first season in 5A, appears to be on the same level of Waco High’s last two opponents. The Broncos defeated Red Oak by a point in overtime two weeks ago, then lost by a point against Shoemaker last week.

Senior QB Connor Crews is off to a good start leading the Lake Belton offense this season. He has passed for 843 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His favorite target, Micah Hudson, has 20 catches for 347 yards and seven TDs.

Waco High is averaging 13.5 points per game through its first four contests, a statistic boosted by 45 against Dallas White. The Lions have a chance to at least gain some confidence on the offensive end as Lake Belton is giving up more than 30 points per game.

Rosebud-Lott (2-1) at No. 3 Crawford (3-0)


Breakdown: The Cougars and Pirates will open District 8-2A Division I action in the idyllic setting of Tonkawa Falls Park under the Friday night lights of Pirate Field.

Homestanding Crawford is the favorite. In fact, given the early-season results, the Pirates have established themselves as the best team in their district.

Three weeks ago, Crawford used its passing game to separate from Centerville in a 21-6 victory. Pirates quarterback Luke Torbert completed 5 of 5 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown in the game. Crawford coach Greg Jacobs said Torbert faced the challenge of adapting to the QB role last season and leaned heavily on his athleticism. In his second campaign at quarterback, Torbert has gained confidence at the position and it’s allowing the Pirates to use a lot more weapons on offense.

Even so, Jacobs said the program is still committed to a power running game and they’ve got a veteran RB to drive it with senior Breck Chambers.

Rosebud-Lott will bring a dynamic offense to town, led by junior quarterback Jamarquis Johnson and senior slot back Breon Lewis. Johnson played QB as a freshman before moving to receiver during Rosebud-Lott’s 6-5 season last fall. He’s a legit dual threat QB. Lewis, meanwhile, is averaging 124 combined receiving and rushing yards so far this season.

Crawford and Rosebud-Lott are among five 8-2A D-I teams that made the playoffs a year ago. The race to stay in that category starts Friday night.

Marlin (0-3) at Bosqueville (1-2)

Breakdown: After allowing a combined 77 points in opening losses to Chilton and Hamilton, Bosqueville resolved a lot of its defense issues in a 21-7 win over Clifton.

That was a good sign for the Bulldogs heading into their District 8-2A Division I opener against a Marlin team seeking its first win.

Brooks Nunn, Tre Neal and John Youens contributed to Bosqueville’s strong defensive performance while quarterback Newt Schornack threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a score.

With an 0-3 start, Marlin has had trouble putting together a complete game. The Bulldogs have also had defensive issues as they opened with a 48-31 loss to Crockett followed by a 41-6 loss to Mart.

Improvement came last week in a 16-7 loss to Groesbeck, but they’ll need stars like UT Zha’mauryon Lofton and receiver Trajon Butler to produce some big plays to pull off a district-opening win.

Robinson (2-2) at Hillsboro (2-2)

Radio: 1560 AM,

Breakdown: The Rockets opened the season with a pair of strong defensive performances as they allowed just 22 points to jump off to a 2-0 start.

But after those wins over University and Caldwell, the Rockets have given up an average of 45 points in the last two losses to Taylor and Fairfield.

The Rockets have big offensive weapons in quarterback Jaxsen Ludlow, who has passed for 812 yards and six touchdowns, and running back Christian Lujan, who has rushed for 541 yards and five scores.

Aleki Clark and Grayson Martin are gifted receivers who have combined for 45 catches for 712 yards and seven scores.

Hillsboro has had defensive issues of its own by allowing an average of 44 points in the last three games. However, the Eagles pulled out a 36-35 win over Jarrell last week.

Eagles quarterback Austin Cook is off to a strong start by throwing for 632 yards and 10 touchdowns while Tory Brooks and Ezrian Emory have combined for 596 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

No. 2 China Spring (4-0) at Parish Episcopal (3-1)

Streaming: Look! Livestreams on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram

Breakdown: The Cougars are still rolling through their non-district schedule, coming off a 51-21 road win over Connally and will head back up to Dallas to face Parish Episcopal this week.

Head coach Tyler Beatty said he thought his team did well at containing the Cadets’ speed and limiting production. Although China Spring is operating like a well-oiled machine, they’re still working to fine-tune as they get closer to district play.

“Everything that  we do is to prepare for our district schedule and then obviously to give us a chance to get into the playoffs,” Beatty said. “So, over the course of our preseason we play different styles of offense and different types of larger schools in the amount of athletes that we’re facing.

“For us to go over there and put up the offensive performance that we did and then also limit Connally’s production gave us a lot of confidence moving forward across the board in the season.”

Against the Panthers this week, China Spring is up against a team with size up front on both the offensive and defensive line as well as skilled athletes and a precise signal-caller in Sawyer Anderson.

“The keys for us are to protect the line of scrimmage and distribute the ball on the edge, get Kyle Barton active early,” Beatty said. “And then on the defensive side, we’re going to have to put pressure on the quarterback and quickening up his reads to potentially put the ball up in the air for us to go get it. We’ve got to be able to cover and then rally to the football and we cannot miss tackles.”

• China Spring is a pretty incredible story, winning state last year for the first time since 1978. That team produced nine first-team Super Centex players, seven of which are gone, including Texas Football and Super Centex POY Major Bowden. How have the No. 2-ranked Cougars, sitting 4-0, been able to maintain this championship-caliber team? DJ Ramirez, Chad Conine and Brice Cherry get together every week to chat about high school football.

Connally (3-1) at No. 10 Brownwood (3-1)

Radio: 107.9 FM;


Breakdown: Sometimes you learn more about your team in a loss than a win and although they suffered their first defeat of the season last week against China Spring, the Cadets learned a lot about themselves.

“We found out some kids that can play for us as backups. We played a bunch of kids in this game that are not normally our starters,” said Connally head coach Terry Gerik. “So we have created a little depth because of that. Also, we’ve found out that we have some holes in our system. We’ve got some holes in our offense, defense and special teams and we have to fix those. We have to correct some things for this week and before district.”

Connally will have another tough game this week against the 10th-ranked Lions, who are coming off a 17-3 victory over Glen Rose. Whether the Cadets will have their senior QB Jelani McDonald back under center will be a game-time decision as he is still day-to-day.

With a couple of contests left before district play begins, Gerik said Connally is working on putting together more consistency all around.

“There’s been points in the game where we played really good offensively and there’s been points in the game in the game where we kind of struggled and the same thing goes defensively,” Gerik said. “I think we’re ahead of where we were defensively at this point last year, but we still got a long way to go. (We’re) trying to still figure out a few pieces to the puzzle, especially on special teams and some other areas.”

Trib staff’s Week 5 high school football predictions

Hutto at Midway* Midway Hutto Midway
Temple at Bryan* Temple Temple Temple
Lake Belton at Waco High* (7 p.m.) Lake Belton Lake Belton Lake Belton
University at Killeen Chaparral*
(7 p.m. Thu. at Searles Stadium)
University University University
Pflugerville at Belton* (7 p.m.) Belton Belton Belton
China Spring at Dallas Parish Episcopal China Spring China Spring China Spring
Dallas Roosevelt at La Vega La Vega La Vega La Vega
Robinson at Hillsboro Hillsboro Hillsboro Hillsboro
Brownwood at Connally Connally Brownwood Brownwood
Godley at Gatesville (7 p.m.) Gatesville Gatesville Gatesville
West at Dallas Madison*
(at Wilmer-Hutchins)
West West West
Groesbeck at Mexia* Groesbeck Groesbeck Mexia
Fairfield at Eustace* Fairfield Fairfield Fairfield
Cameron Yoe at Lorena* Lorena Lorena Lorena
McGregor at Franklin* Franklin Franklin Franklin
Academy at Troy* Academy Academy Academy
Millsap at Clifton (7 p.m.) Clifton Millsap Millsap
San Saba at Hamilton* (7 p.m.) San Saba San Saba San Saba
Itasca at Kerens* (7 p.m.) Itasca Itasca Itasca
Axtell at Cayuga* (7 p.m.) Axtell Axtell Axtell
Rosebud-Lott at Crawford* Crawford Crawford Crawford
Marlin at Bosqueville* Marlin Marlin Marlin
Bruceville-Eddy at Riesel* B-Eddy Riesel Riesel
Valley Mills at Moody* Moody Moody Moody
Mart at Meridian* (7 p.m.) Mart Mart Mart
Wortham at Hubbard* (7 p.m.) Wortham Wortham Wortham
Frost at Hico* (7 p.m.) Hico Hico Hico
Chilton vs. Deweyville (6 p.m. Sat. at Trinity) Chilton Chilton Chilton
Lubbock Christian at Bishop Reicher* (6 p.m.) Lubbock Lubbock Lubbock
Centex Outlaws at Cedar Hill DasCHE Home School DasCHE DasCHE DasCHE
Keene at Blum (Sat.) Blum Blum Blum
Walnut Springs at Covington (7 p.m.) Covington Covington Covington
Avalon at Abbott Abbott Abbott Abbott
Aquilla at Three Way Aquilla Aquilla Aquilla
Coolidge vs. Richland Springs
(at Jonesboro)
Gholson at Bynum Gholson Bynum Gholson
Kopperl at Penelope Penelope Penelope Penelope
Evant at Rochelle Rochelle Rochelle Rochelle
Jonesboro at Burnet Smoking for Jesus Ministry Jonesboro Jonesboro Jonesboro
Morgan at Mullin Morgan Morgan Morgan
Apple Springs at Mount Calm (7 p.m.) Mt. Calm Mt. Calm Mt. Calm
Iredell at Lingleville (Thu.) Lingleville Lingleville Lingleville
Live Oak at Lometa (7 p.m.) Live Oak Live Oak Live Oak
Eagle Christian at Longview Chr. Heritage* ECA LCH LCH
Methodist Home at Oglesby Oglesby Oglesby Oglesby
Parkview Christian at Cranfills Gap (7 p.m.) Gap Gap Gap
Texas Wind at Temple Centex Home School* Temple) Wind Wind
Last week 30-12 29-13 28-14
Season to date 119-77 129-67 147-49

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